Listen to Audio (14:37)
Statement regarding dismissed linebacker Ebele Okakpu:
“We dismissed Ebele Okakpu for conduct detrimental to the team. Ebele will remain on scholarship and he does have a chance to graduate in the spring, so we want to give him the opportunity to continue his education and hopefully graduate in the spring. We wish him well in that.”
Can you give any more details on Okakpu?
“Nope. Conduct detrimental to the team.”
Is there a common theme to the slow starts in the last two games?
“I think they were two different situations. When you turn the ball over early like we turned it over and then you give up the touchdown pass, that was more the issue [against Miami]. That hit us right in the face early… I never felt like this game was going to get out of hand. I felt like we were going to be able to work ourselves back into the game and I felt like there at the end, we had a shot. We had a shot at the end and that’s what you play the game for. You want to play those kinds of games against good teams and have a shot at the end to possibly win the game. So a common theme? I don’t think there was a common theme in the two games.”
What are your thoughts on your defense’s play this season?
“We thought we were really going to be good up front in the front seven, and I still think we are good up front in the front seven. We knew we were going to have some challenges in the back end and I think we have to continue to work on those challenges in the back end. But I think the kids are working at it every day and trying to improve every day. Hopefully we’ll get some guys back healthy so that we can get better and play better during this last stretch of the year.”
What will Darius Lipford provide in his new role replacing Okakpu?
“I think we’ll use a number of guys at that spot, whether we take Travis Hughes and move him into that spot [or] Norkeithus Otis to that spot. The thing that I like is that we’ve built a little bit of depth at linebacker now, so we’ve got the capability of moving some guys around because a lot of those guys have played…. I think Darius will do well in that spot. He’s played a good bit this year and hopefully he’ll step up – I know he will – he’ll step up and take the challenge.”
Listen to Audio (5:02)
On the slow starts the last two weeks:
“We definitely need to start faster. I think that’s something we can all see. We need to get out of the box faster, just get something going. That will really help the confidence of this team if we just start making plays. And that starts with me and starts with this offense. We take that seriously.”
Have the slow starts been a surprise?
“Not really. We’ve played great teams. We’ve played great defensive coordinators and great head coaches and they’re going to have a plan after seeing that we score on the first drive to come out there and stop us. We play athletes that are on scholarship, too. But we think we have the capability of scoring on every drive if we go in with that mindset, and that ‘s something we need to start doing.”
Listen to Audio (5:46)
On how the defense will make up for Ebele Okakpu’s dismissal?
“Obviously, we have great players all around the field. We have guys that are going to step and make contributions on defense for the rest of the season. Going ahead and winning the ACC is the plan.”
On the “bend, don’t break” defensive approach:
“Our biggest [focus] in every game is not to give up any big plays for touchdowns. The biggest thing is we want to live and play another down, and I feel like so far, we’ve done that. We’ve stood together as a defense. The biggest thing is if we have a letdown here, we need to make up for it here.”
Listen to Audio (5:30)
How did you get hurt on Saturday?
“I got punched in the groin by one of the Miami players. The referee wasn’t fortunate enough to see it. They were playing dirty. I don’t know if I got kicked or punched, but I got hit below.”
Was it an accident?
“No, it definitely wasn’t an accident… That’s my first time ever playing football and getting kicked below. It wasn’t a very pleasant feeling.”